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MSWA Bulletin Magazine Summer 2022

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Keeping your cool this summer | Welcome Melanie Kiely CEO | MSWA Stationary Cycle results | Pain and pain management series: Part 3

COUNSELLING THE LIGHTER

COUNSELLING THE LIGHTER SIDE OF LIFE The comedy skits at the recent MSWA Client & Volunteer Christmas Party had the whole audience laughing. “Laughter is the best medicine!” It appears that there is more truth in this saying than what we first thought. Research suggests that the effect of laughing has positive effects on our physical and mental health. A good laugh can relieve physical tension and stress. It can also boost the immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection fighting antibodies, helping the body’s resistance to disease. Laughing also helps release endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, and can help promote an overall sense of wellbeing. It can even temporarily reduce pain. Laughter has also been noted to improve the function of blood vessels and increase blood flow which supports the cardiovascular system. Mentally, laughter is easing anxiety and tension, relieving stress and improving our mood. Socially, it is strengthening our relationships, enhancing teamwork, helping to defuse conflict, attracting others to us and promoting group bonding. The social aspects are paramount. When we are engaging with people, connecting face to face and using laughter even in stressful situations, it can help people relax and be more at ease. Laughter unites people and fosters an emotional connection – which creates a positive bond with others – which then can help us to be more resilient when stress, disagreements and disappointments come along. Some suggestions to incorporate more humour into your life: / It can be as simple as smiling. A smile is the beginning of laughter, so this simple contagious act will have a positive effect on those around you. / Pay attention to the blessings in your life. Make a list. Sometimes the negative thoughts and feelings that block humour and laughter can be distanced by considering the positive aspects of life. / Spend time with fun and playful people. Seek out people who have a light-hearted humorous nature. You can even bring humour intentionally into your own personal conversations by literally asking people the question, “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you this week?” / Watch a funny movie or TV show, or look up your favourite comedian on YouTube. / Make time for fun activities and even attend a ‘laughing yoga’ class. The act of laughing, playing and having fun not only makes our lives more enjoyable but helps us solve problems, make meaningful connections with others and also to think more creatively. Like my old tennis coach said – “You play your best tennis when you are relaxed" – and in the game of life we need all the advice we can get. SHAUN SPICER MSWA COUNSELLOR 24

MSWA CLIENT LAUGHTER YOGA MSWA Client Moira Oliver (left) hosting a laughter yoga session, with friend Joanne. I re-discovered laughter yoga a year after I was diagnosed with MS. I took a course to become a facilitator and now I run voluntary laughter yoga sessions for friends and fellow MSWA Clients. Most of us respond when we see someone smiling, and laughter just takes the next step. It’s contagious and makes you feel good. With laughter yoga, people often worry that they won’t be able to do the positions, but there’s no traditional yoga positions involved. In saying that, movement is beneficial if you’re able. Clapping is great for instance, it stimulates the acupressure points in your hands. The four elements of laughter yoga are clapping, playfulness, breathing and activity. During a session, I take you through four sets of four exercises to generate laughter. Once people start getting into it, you can’t help but join in. It’s contagious! You feel a real buzz, which is why I get you to do half an hour of mindfulness after each session, to bring you back. Tony, my daughter’s horse, who I think can’t help but make you laugh! It does reduce stress. It’s not relaxing while you’re doing it, but you feel the benefit afterwards. Interestingly, fake laughter has the same benefits as real laughter. Here’s an exercise to try at home if you need a lift: force yourself to laugh out loud and go through the vowels – ‘ha ha ha, he he he, hi hi hi, ho ho ho, hu hu hu’. Clapping along helps too. If I’m driving to work and feeling a bit robotic, I’ll start laughing like this as I’m driving. It really does jolt me into a better mood! MOIRA OLIVER MSWA CLIENT 25